Bamberg – Bampot

Over the years my knowledge of Scottish words and Scottish slang has increased immeasurably. However I would claim (I might even be right) that many of these unique Scottish words were invented to fool, confuse or deceive the English Sassenachs [Scottish / Gaelic word for Saxons].

We like heilin coos

The smallest amount of research will reveal that there are hundreds of Scottish words and phrases, plus they are still being added to today. Although my ‘education’ is far from complete and the accent still leaves a lot to be desired, at least I do now know the meanings of this group of words:

Bairn – baby (jist a wee bairn) or small childFeart – Afraid
Blether – GossipGie it laldy – Put some effort in.
Bonnie – BeautifulGutties – Soft, rubber plimsoles
Bowfing – Smelly, horribleHoaching – full / swarming
Breeks – TrousersKen: To know
Clipe – A snitch or someone who tells talesMessages – Grocery shopping
Coo – CowNeeps & Tatties – Turnips & Potatoes.
Crabbit – Bad temperedPeely-Wally – Looking pale
Dreich – Foggy, cloudy, overcast.Piece – A sandwich
Drookit – Soaking wetScunnered – Bored, fed up
Drouthy – Thirsty.Wean – Child
Eejit – IdiotWee – Small

With good roads and autumn’s colours in full glow, the drive through the Franconia forest was bonnie. Upper Franconia is a significant part of Upper Barvaria. Wikipedia suggests that the area is characterised by its own culture and language, colloquially referred to as “Franconian” (German: “Fränkisch“).

Finding good (stellplatz) places to stay at as we drove through was easy, first in Freiberg and then Saalburg-Ebersdorf, where the free parking spot was on an empty beach, beside a large lake in the Thuringian nature park.

I suspect, judging by the swimming pontoons and the nearby caravan park, this place is hoaching in the summer. The only cost for us to have the big swathe of lake shore to ourselves, was a bit of mist and light rain in the morning – one of the first times it had been dreich on our trip so far.

At Mitwitz we found a great wee camp site, recently built by a local builder and his wife. This was a great pitch, since the owners themselves were motorhomers so everything was well designed and in pristine condition. On Saturday evening we ended up blethering to the owners over a beer in their camp-site bistro. Then after a lazy Sunday morning, making use of the free WiFi to do more research, we headed south to Bamberg

Bamberg Rasthaus (Town Hall)

We have 30 GB of data but as we use data to research places to see on the route ahead of us we have been using our data allowance faster than the 1 GB per day. Located by the river and with free wifi on offer the stellplatz in Bamberg enabled us to catch up on the blog and to check out where to go next.

Leaving Dave welded to the laptop, Lesley headed into town to get the messages and have a sneak preview of the town.

With the waterside houses , they call this area of Bamberg Little Venice
The ornately decorated side of the Rasthaus

It’s likely that during the summer months this quaint town, with its colourful town hall built on the island in the river, will undoubtedly receive lots of tourist attention. We had a good wander and a good gander at the shops, improving our daily step count by walking up to have a look at the Domplatz, the most impressive square in Bamberg.

Cathedral, old court yard and cathedral square

We had to have a peak inside the four-towered Imperial Cathedral as it’s the heart of the city and an important work of art, the current Cathedral dates back to 1237.

This region with more than 200 independent breweries which brew approximately 1000 different types of beer, has the worlds highest brewery-density per capita…. so it has to be investigated, right?

All the sight seeing had worked up an appetite for us both. A reasonable priced Italian restaurant caught our eye. The food was tasty and Dave washed his down with the local Smoked Rauchbier – Well it had to be done….but probably only once, as unsurprisingly it tasted of smoke! and although it looks like Guinness but was bowfing.

We could have stayed longer but with further adventures yet to be had, we reluctantly tore ourselves away from the free WiFi and set sail to Heiligenstadt.

Heiligenstadt

The next day at Heiligenstadt started with a relaxed lie in, always a good sign of a quiet overnight stop. A bike ride was planned but before we got on the road again we noticed power to the music system and Sat Nav had been left on overnight!!!! Yes the cab battery was flat and I was the Eejit who’s now left us stranded with no battery power to start the engine…..!

I’m not convinced that this word is unique to Scotland but Lecky is said to be the shorthand for electricity; though usually focused on the bill, not the actual thing. As inThere’s me having to put a tenner in that lecky again because you’ll noo turn yer telly aff!

A drained cab battery is an issue we had a couple of weeks before when we had to resort to jump starting it from the habitation battery. This time the gods weren’t smiling on us. I got the jump leads out but there was not enough charge in hab battery either. Och shite Pooh-n sticks! The engine barely cranked over and definitely wouldn’t start even with the two 12v 90 amp hab batteries connected.

Bosch Service Centre hidden in a back street of Heiligenstadt

Now what do we do? Enter Jürgen a man innocently out walking his dog. Quick, make a fuss and he might come to our rescue – it worked. He stopped to ask if we needed help. With our combined pigeon German/English he soon understood what we needed and dropping off his Irish terrier on route he walked Dave the 1km to a well equipped specialist Bosch garage at the other end of town.

The garage technician who came out was brilliant. He tested the battery and although he didn’t say it was Kaput, according to his multi-meter a reading of just 12v wasn’t brilliant. He also tested the alternator and that was fine so a quick jump start via his zillion amp power-pack fired up Charlie II once more and we were able to follow him back.

Luckily the garage had the right battery in stock, the downside was it was a Bosch, (not the cheapest). Not wanting a doubtful cab battery when facing a winter in the Alps, we gulped and €200 later (including the call out and fitting) we’re back in business.

Ok, deep breath, so we’ve wrecked our thus far frugalness but we’ll get over it. So in spite of the cold weather we decided there was still time to get the bikes out for a quick blast around the many excellent cycle paths that connected the various small towns in the area.

Yes I look a ticket, but it was bloody cold

Well there you are, today I have learnt the meaning of a new Scottish word bampot: [an unhinged idiot] and a bit of an expensive lesson? Actually I think the battery wasn’t great anyhow and it was better to find out here than at an isolated spot without a Jürgen in sight.

Cheerio fur noo

D&L

Postscript – Jürgen was just great. After walking me to the garage, he came back in his car to show us the way, before finally returning again to check on progress whilst we were getting it fixed. What a nice man. Lesley says he was a a real sweetie and meeting him was the silver lining of the experience

Sent to Coventry

The bombing of Coventry occurred on the night of 14 November 1940. When more than 400 German bombers attacked Coventry, leaving a trail of destruction.

Before World War Two, Coventry was one of the largest manufacturing and engineering cities in Britain and its factories supplied Britain’s military at the beginning of the war. Many workers lived near to the factories, so attacks on these buildings put the civilian population at risk too.

The Germans intended to create a firestorm in the city that would obliterate factories and wipe out the historical centre, inflicting maximum damage to the city’s contribution to the war and to the morale of the residents.

Having resisted the temptation to visit the place on our way to the tunnel and so far, I haven’t been sent to Coventry either! However, we are planning on going to Dresden as it’s near to Saxon Switzerland.

It probably won’t come as a surprise, but the Saxon Switzerland National Park, is nowhere near the Swiss border but is in the German heart of the Elbe Sandstone Mountains, part of the huge Sächsische Schweiz National Park.

Meet Hewey our sprung loaded jumping trip mascot, near the town of Hinterhermsdorf
The House of Guests! – Closed Mondays!

Hewey hasn’t yet fully qualified as a lucky mascot but he’s working on it. Following on from the previously documented ‘hat incident’ in Hann. Münden. On Sunday I left my hat (cap) in the Hinterhermsdorf tourist Information office opposite our overnight parking spot. At 9 o’clock I went over on the unlikely chance there would someone there. There was, and he spoke English with an a perfect English RP accent having spent 15 years in military in South Africa.

I wonder if my hat will have as many lives as a cat?

A bit Swiss looking

I had assumed the area got its name after the rolling hills of the Swiss Jura? But apparently not so, it was in fact named because it reminded two famous 18th century Swiss artists of of the shape of Toblerone. Ok so that ‘s not quite true but it could have been.

Incidentally I missed it but a couple of years ago Toblerone, against rising costs and in order for the likes of Poundland to continue to sell their (teeth breaking) bars for a quid, came up with the daft idea of wider gaps between the chocolate’s peaks. However after an outcry from shoppers, Toblerone soon announced its bars would revert to their traditional shape.

Today we’re out on the bikes again starting off from our Stellplatz at Pirna-Copitz following a route planned on the Komoot cycling app.

This great a great cycling area with dozens of trails

Our route from our parking place was about 15 miles round trip

Coachloads of people from all over the world, turn up to see the Felsenburg Neurathen with the nineteenth century Bastei Bridge, a landmark of Saxon Switzerland, built 200m above the Elbe river between two jagged 1-million-year-old rocks. In spite of its popularity it’s still an amazing sight!

The Bastei has been a tourist attraction for over 200 years. In 1824, a wooden bridge was constructed to link several rocks for the visitors. This bridge was replaced in 1851 by the present Bastei Bridge made of sandstone.

The Bastei giant pinnacles of sandstone rock are tamed by the stone bridge

The stone bridge, dramatic in its appearance, as it connects these towers of rock and then seems to lead nowhere.

River Elbe 200 metres below

Looking at the other well equipped tourists that had come by car and bus I felt slightly inadequate that my mobile wasn’t mounted on the latest extendable, remote controlled selfie stick.

After an exhausting photo shoot we thought we were deserving of a nice lunch. As the Bastei Hotel & Panorama Restaurant (a window seat gives scenic views of the river Elbe below) was our only choice it was really good that we weren’t made to feel bad about sitting at tables with napkins and pristine white table-cloths in our mud splattered cycling gear.

After the hills to and from the Bastei bridge, our return journey retraced the path back down to a level track alongside the Elbe making our return route much faster.

The riverside track gave a different perspective on the area and we weren’t deterred when halfway along we saw a sign in German saying effectively go back 5kms as there were impassable roadworks 2kms ahead. We didn’t (Dave) decided to continue (First break all the rules). Happily it ended well, as we had arrived almost at the very moment they were re-filling the holes they’d had open for the last 6 months….Phew

Bombing of Dresden: February 1945

Before the 2nd World War, Dresden was called “the Florence of the Elbe” and was regarded as one the world’s most beautiful cities for its architecture and museums.

On the night of February 13, hundreds of RAF bombers descended on Dresden in two waves, dropping their lethal cargo indiscriminately over the city. By the morning, some 800 British bombers had dropped more than 1,400 tons of high-explosive bombs and more than 1,100 tons of incendiaries on Dresden, creating a great firestorm that destroyed most of the city and killed numerous civilians.

At the end of the war, Dresden was so badly damaged that the city was basically leveled. A handful of historic buildings–the Zwinger Palace, the Dresden State Opera House and several fine churches–were carefully reconstructed out of the rubble, but the rest of the city was rebuilt with plain modern buildings

It is oft repeated that Churchill “ordered” the firebombing of Dresden as a “vicious payback” for the German bombing of Coventry. So Like Coventry I have little desire to be sent there.

An image taken as we ‘passed though’ deciding not to stop in Dresden

Coventry and Dresden, the common fate of the two cities during World War II and their many years of efforts for reconciliation and understanding among people resulted in the twinning of the two cities.

Nowadays, both cities seek to build on the twinning relationship to promote the economic prosperity of the two cities by developing opportunities for partnership projects.

Maybe bypassing Dresden was a bit like the numerous times we’ve travelled passed Coventry on the M6. We probably don’t know what we’re missing….?

Toodle Pip

D&L

Last but not least, but did you know Coventry is UK City of Culture 2021!

Bohemian Rhapsody

The legendary six-minute single by Queen, is what many call the greatest song ever written. It’s still one of the best-selling rock singles of all time, was voted The Song of the Millennium in 2000, and was recorded in the Guinness Book of Records as the No. 1 song of all time.

A Bohemian is a resident of Bohemia, a region of the Czech Republic or the former Kingdom of Bohemia, a region of the former Crown of Bohemia (lands of the Bohemian Crown). In English, the word “Bohemian” was used to denote the Czech people as well as the Czech language before the word “Czech” became prevalent in the early 20th century.

Wikipedia

To get to Bohemia we still have to travel on a few Polish roads. In general most of the main the roads in Poland are ok. We happened to pick one of the bumpiest ones!

The Notorious E36 or national road 18, the southbound part of national is in a shoddy condition. So much so, that some people even call it “the longest staircase in Europe.” 

We didn’t see many photographic images of Polish towns as we drove south but this was one

Before we left our very short dip into Poland we had a very enjoyable night in attractive Camp66, a great campsite in the Karkonosze mountains near Karpacau.

Camp66 – Great campsite with big log cabin restaurant

Karpacau is a spa town, a ski resort and is supposedly a popular centre for walking and is promoted as this area’s alternative to the Alps. Judging by the volume of people milling around on a snowless Sunday, they looked like they’d had a good lunch and were wondering how they’d make the 100m trek back to their coach! All very reminiscent of the hordes of visitors who flock to Bowness-on-Windermere.

Poland is on one side of the Karkonosze mountains, the Czech Republic is on the other. But before heading to the border and not wishing to be tarred as cozy coach travellers, our plan was to take a short walk to Chojnik Castle.

This ruined castle sits on a prominent hilltop with lovely views of the surrounding countryside. The challenge is getting to it. On the map it only looked about 3kms but 2.9k of that was up! along a broken cobbled path and very steep in places.

As we arrived near the end of the afternoon and it was about to close, we managed to blag our way through the pay kiosk without paying.

It seemed this fresh, dry, autumn Sunday afternoon had bought the locals out and seemed very popular with families, couples and groups. We tried in vain to engage with our fellow ramblers, saying an occasional Hello hoping to get a Cześć or Hi back, but as they descended and we climbed up trying not to look like our lungs were about to explode, making eye contact is very clearly not the done thing around here……?

Helloo!

The views from the top were worth the effort and after an easy route back down we felt recovered and quite worthy.

Just before the border we had a slight altercation with a grumpy driver at a one-way system at bridge under repair, but when we wouldn’t reverse, after much shouting he gave way. We carried on to Harrachov, close to the Polish border and home of the Čertova Hova ski area and Čerťák ski jump. Even without the snow with lots of ski rental shops, it still felt like a ski town. It seemed they were expecting the white stuff anytime as all the empty car parks had barriers or chains.

We eventually settled on one with a friendly disabled man in a hut, who insisted on charging us 2 x €4 for two day tickets in spite of us explaining we were only staying overnight.

Next morning, we were up early (for us) and was good to be out in the bracing air, wrapped up against the cold. The pavements were slippy as we made our way to the start of the walk to the Mumlava waterfalls.

Drips of water had frozen on the tips of fir trees looking like fairy lights on a xmas tree.

Keeping the stream on our left we walked up the frosty path through pine forests, stopping to look at the strange ice patterns on odd pieces of wood.

These strange frost formations looked like Santa Claus’s moustache.
National Park, Mumlava Waterfall that cascades into deep pools.

After the walk and now suitably warmed up, we next headed south towards the town of Jičín. After a few sat nav wrong turns we found, the Prachov Rocks and our second walk of the day that was completely different. No water in sight. But the rocks, wow!

The rocks are part of the Prachovské Skály nature reserve. The region is called Bohemian Paradise, Český ráj in Czech.

This is one of the most popular regions in the Czech Republic. However today, out of season and with a low blanket of cloud covering the area we had the place virtually to ourselves. With the entrance kiosk unmanned, we followed the path up a gentle incline into a forest which opened up with the most striking tall sandstone rock formations.

The sandstone pillars were so tall we got cricks in our necks looking up at them. There were various marked trails to choose from. Setting off on the longest path and with route finding easy as we followed the colour coded signs – up steps, down steps, up more steps, and squeezing through narrow gaps between huge stones, up more steps….there were a LOT of steps.

The beginnings of the sandstone formations date back to the Mesozoic era when the whole territory was flooded with sea water. Millions of years later, the region was pushed up by the effects of powerful tectonic powers, the flood shrank back and the seabed split into separate blocks. Then wind and rain caused erosion creating the distinctive with tall rock towers and deep rock gaps.

Making it up to the various viewing points, we then had to climb down steep staircases carved in the rocks holding onto the handrails on the slippery steps. The tortuous path took us round in a loop through narrow gaps to yet new vantage points to look down on nature’s impressive carved exhibits.  The circular route was only about 3.5 km but with all the ups and downs it took us about 2 hours. We finished tired, happy and impressed.

It’s a shame the mist made the photos hazy, but it made the atmosphere all the more mist-teary-us

On January 1, 1993, Czechoslovakia split into two independent states, the Czech Republic and Slovakia. It is sometimes known, as the Velvet Divorce a reference to the bloodless Velvet Revolution of November 1989, that led to the end of the rule of the Communist party of Czechoslovakia and the restoration of a capitalist state in the country.

Demonstrators hold signs at an anti-government protest before the 30th anniversary of the 1989 Velvet Revolution. [David W Cerny/Reuters]
Demonstrators in Prague 9th November 2019 at an anti-government protest before the 30th anniversary of the 1989 Velvet Revolution

Old habits die hard so it taken us a while to re-programmed ourselves to say that we we’re in Czech or The Czech Republic rather than are in Czechoslovakia…. So as we left Czech and went across the border to Germany, there were no checks and from now on it’s ‘Check-no-Slovakia’…… groan!

Czech / German border – No longer in use

“Goodbye everybody, I’ve got to go
Gotta leave you all behind and face the truth”

Toodle Pip

L&D

PS A “bohemian” is an unconventional artistic free spirit who lacks anything tying them down…. so where next?

The Great Escape

During my adolescence I spent many a happy Saturday afternoon in the Regent Cinema in Stanford-le-Hop, watching 1960’s ‘Classic’ war films (It’s probably a boy thing). This movie diet created an (admittedly less than perfect) cinematic understanding of what had happened during the war still fresh in the memories of our parents.

And there were some great titles around in the 60’s. My favourite was Zulu (I saw it 7 times!). But amongst the other 2nd World War classics were – The Dam Busters, 633 Squadron, The Great Escape and A Bridge Too Far.

The Rakotz Bridge in Kromlauer Park. near Bad Muskau

Leaving Berlin we headed south west to see a bridge close by the spa town Bad Muskau, well known for its Kromlauer park, which sits astride the Neisse River, and is half in Germany and half in Poland. The park is the largest and one of the most famous ‘English’ garden parks in Central Europe. The park’s eye catcher is the Rakotz Bridge, a folly built between 1863 and 1882. In the mirror of the water surface, it forms a full circle and is thus probably the most famous photo from the park.

Cycling through the park with nature’s dazzling display of autumn colours was just delightful.

The 750 hectare park was created in the first half of the 19th century by the garden-mad Prince Hermann of Pückler-Muskau. The prince had studied gardening in England and spent his entire inheritance and that of his soon to be ex-wife developing his own garden dreamland.

Given the limited photo editing capabilities of the iPhone, It would have been going ‘too far’ to expect to get an image of the Devil’s (Rakotz) Bridge as good as this one below I assume taken at a similar the time of year.

So we weren’t expecting this…

The Rakotz Bridge undergoing essential maintenance – Didn’t they know we were coming!

The park is now a UNESCO World Heritage Site, so it seems dear Hermann has been vindicated not only for what he left behind, but what he contributed to the field of landscape architecture while he was alive. In any case, he and his ex-wife remained friends. The park has also lakes, an English cottage, a chapel, a Medieval fortress and several elegant bridges and can be explored on foot, by bike, or by boat.

On route we stopped in the attractive town of Lübbenau to pick up bakery supplies and to check out these sculptures in the cobbled town square.
A distinctive former East German ‘barber pole’ border marker. The spike on the top is to deter birds from perching on it.

Charlie II’s parking space in Bad Muskau last night was shared with 3 other motorhomes. The reasonable €10.50 (including tourist tax) overnight payment was collected by Mike the helpful park keeper cum part-time DJ…? who gave us maps and encouraged us to go and explore the Geopark just over the border in Poland.

Lesley crossing the wooden boarded old railway bridge

So before we set off the next day it was out with the bikes again for a quick whizz into Poland. With aid of Mike’s map, the route was easy to follow initially crossing the old railway bridge over the river Neisse (no monsters here) and via the (Boris take note) borderless, border into Poland.

A more humane Polish border marker pole – lacking the bird skewering spike!

Moving away from the river the path skirted the small border town of Łęknica. As we rode through we both simultaneously commented how ‘Scruffy’ it felt especially compared with its well-groomed German neighbour.

We’d passed a busy, large tobacco kiosk selling (TAX Free?) cigarettes by the case. Many of the rear gardens were unkempt, small grubby vegetable plots or just neglected overgrown and unloved yards. We cycled by doggy compounds guarded by mad barking dogs and young men in hoodies fixing up old cars amongst crumbling brick-built ruins overrun with weeds.

Eventually the scruffiness melted as we entered the Geopark. Even though us humans have exploited every last inch of this place (leaving the damage for everyone to see (eg collapsed mines). The numerous lakes created by this activity painted an appealing natural picture. Cycling along the well-maintained route you saw a variety of mini-lakes in full rainbow colours of greens, reds, browns and yellows. Some quite different from their neighbour.

The variety of these colours is as a result of the natural occurring materials exposed and exploited by man. Brown coal (lignite) was extracted both in deep mines and open pits.  In the 19th century, there were about 60 mines, each having several extraction pits. The open pits left about 400 lakes spread all over the region over a surface of some 280 square kilometres.

The commercial use of these geological features, coal, chemicals and other useful products from the earth, has resulted in this post-mining landscape mix, of nature and man’s footprint. Declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2004.

There’re some breathtaking (literally) views from the top of this viewing platform

Compared with the surrounding villages there appears to have been considerable effort to make the most of the Geopark which I assume attracts many visitors at other times of the year. So we were pleased to have it virtually to ourselves.

As we were so close we thought we would pop into Poland to Żagań, and visit the site of Stalag Luft III, the prisoner of war camp that inspired the film The Great Escape. Made in 1963 it is based on the true story, of the POW’s who dug three tunnels in an audacious plan for 200 captured allied airmen to escape from this infamous camp.

The film was a classic and I‘ve lost count of number of times I’ve seen it, each time hoping Steve McQueen will, make it over that second barbed wire fence to Switzerland….

The Great Escape museum is a pleasant enough experience but makes little of the association with the film. Although it does explain some of the history of the place via a series of photos, copies of documents, models, personal items loaned by relatives and items excavated from the site of the camp 1 km away, I’m not sure it conveys what these men went through as powerfully as the (semi-factual) film manages to do.

3 tunnels were dug Tom, Dick and Harry. Harry was the tunnel where the bold escape plan was carried out.

Tom began in a darkened corner next to a stove chimney in hut 123 and extended west into the forest. It was found by the Germans and dynamited.

Dick’s entrance was hidden in a drain sump in the washroom of hut 122 and had the most secure trap door. It was to go in the same direction as Tom and the prisoners decided that the hut would not be a suspected tunnel site as it was further from the wire than the others. Dick was abandoned for escape purposes because the area where it would have surfaced was cleared for camp expansion. Dick was used to store soil and supplies and as a workshop.

James Garner & Steve McQueen played characters introduced for the US audiences

The entrance to Harry was in the sleeping part of hut 104 under an iron stove. The work started on 11th of April 1943 and it was planned that it would lead towards the north. It was Harry that was actually used for the escape on the night of the 24th/25th of March 1944.

The tunnel was 111 m long and about 10 m below the ground. At the bottom of the shaft there was a room with an air pump, excavated sand storage and a carpenter workshop.

Along the tunnel there were also two wider chambers, so called halfway stations named after London tube stations (Piccadilly Circus and Leicester Square).

The tunnel had electric lighting and its walls were covered with 2,000 bed boards and 45 bunkbeds. A total of 132 tons of sand was dog out, the 12 tons of which were carried to the tunnel ‘Dick’. 80 tons were spread under the theatre seats and 40 tons with disposed of by ‘penguins’ a special group of prisoners carrying the sand in long sacks hidden in their trousers and spreading the sand all over the camp grounds.

The escape was set for Friday, March 24, a moonless evening. On the night, freezing temperatures had hardened the ground. It took more than an hour to open the exit shaft, only to reveal a near-catastrophe: Harry fell a good 20ft short of the forest. The first man in fact emerged just short of the tree line, close to a guard tower meaning escapees had to risk crawling across open, snow-covered ground to the trees.

Plans for one man to leave every minute was reduced to 10 per hour. By four in the morning, it was decided the 87th man in the tunnel would be the last to go. Above ground, meanwhile, a sentry patrolling the perimeter approached the edge of the woods to relieve himself, only to notice steam rising from the ground.

As he approached, three escapees broke cover with their arms raised high. Startled, the guard fired a single shot into the air. Armed guards swarmed the compound and eventually a roll call was taken. The numbers tallied were startling. Seventy-six men had escaped.

Of the escapees, 3 made it to safety, 73 were captured, tragically Hitler personally ordered 50 of the officers to be murdered, the other 23 were sent to various other POW camps including Colditz.

The Stalag Luff III camp was massive holding more than 10,000 POW’s. In the film it tells how 600 men were involved in the escape planning, tunnelling and creating clothing, false papers and creating all the supporting equipment and deceptions etc.

In the final months of the war ending the remaining POWs of Stalag Luff III were faced with a winter force-march from the camp, ahead of the advancing Soviet troops and eventual liberation.

http://www.214squadron.org.uk/Graphics/The_March_British_POWs_1945.jpg

Just before midnight on 27 January 1945, with Soviet troops only 16 miles away, the remaining 11,000 prisoners were force marched out of camp. In freezing temperatures and 6 inches of snow and marched 34 miles to Bad Muskau where they rested for 30 hours, before marching the remaining 16 miles to their eventual destination of Spremberg…..

Toodle Pip

Dave & Lesley

Berlin’s Up’s Downs

Many of us have our downs and our ups, for example: three decades ago, the Springboks were widely viewed as a pawn or a symbol of the white-minority apartheid regime. On 2nd November this year they beat England 32-12 in Japan, earning their third rugby world cup crown. But this team broke new ground, being the most racially-mixed in a national sport which was once the preserve of the white elite.

The Springboks’ final stop on their victory tour pounded home the message of unity in a country still nursing the wounds of apartheid a quarter-century after its end. “Look how we are all different, different races, different backgrounds, and we came together for South Africa and we made it happen,” Siya Kolisi, the Springboks’ first black captain, told thousands of fans.

Last Sunday marked 30 years since the Berlin Wall was torn down, ending years of painful division in the German capital. It had been constructed overnight and on the night of 9 November 1989 it fell, with thousands of East Germans travelling to the barrier to demand the gates be opened.

Wall Art on a section of the wall called the East Side Gallery
There were two walls for escapees to overcome an inner and an outer

As it turns out, the actual fall or opening of the wall was the result of a mistake.

The East German government had announced at a press conference on November 9, 1989 that it planned to loosen restrictions to allow greater free movement of people. A representative read a public pronouncement and took questions. When pressed by a journalist as to when the regulations allowing people to cross into West Berlin would go into effect, the government representative didn’t know the official answer. As it sometimes does, pride got in the way. Fearful of showing ignorance, he made something up: “As far as I know, it takes effect immediately, without delay.”

With that prompt, East Berliners flocked to the border crossings to see if the news was indeed true. The East German government was unprepared. Without guidance from superiors as to what to do with the crowds, the commander of the now famous Bornholmer Straße border crossing opted against violence, ordered his guards to open the border, and allowed East Berliners to cross.

Another famous incident illustrating the barbarity of the shoot-to-kill order occurred on 17 August 1962 when 18-year-old would-be escapee Peter Fechter was shot and wounded and then left to bleed to death as East German guards looked on. There’s a memorial in his honour on Zimmerstrasse, near Checkpoint Charlie.

Trabants smashed car sales during the DDR era, so I was disappointed not to see any on the streets

We had managed to park our Charlie not at the checkpoint, instead our 5* accommodation in a stellplaz not far from a tube station, but at €27 per night it was our most expensive so far. We’d read mixed reviews of the staff, some reviewers saying they were friendly, others complaining about the grumpiness of the woman on reception. I’d agree with both these sets of opinions and would add my voice to the complaints about the petty charges, (€20 deposit for a gate key and €10 for a 2-pin hook up adaptor. €4 to use their toilet, €2 for fresh water…. ) I guess as a major city site with a 100+ motorhomes they’d probably had issues with campers stealing sheets of toilet paper that had necessitated these Nazi style rules.

The former headquarters of the Stasi now a Museum

At least once we’d settled in we weren’t spied upon unlike those East German’s living with 92,000 Stasi employees plus informal informers in their midst. Our first destination on our two-day whistle stop tour was the Stasi Museum. I had some idea of the activities of the GDR’s secret police from the excellent film ‘The Lives of Others’ whose plot is about the monitoring of East Berlin residents by agents of the Stasi. The Museum is housed in the former headquarters and is full of detail, but for me a bit overwhelming and after 90 mins I’d had enough.

The Reichstag (home of the German parliament) was badly burned during the war.

Although the ruined building above was partially refurbished in the 1960s, it was not until after german reunification in 1990, when it underwent a reconstruction led by architect Norman Foster. After its completion in 1999, it once again became the meeting place of the German parliament: the modern Bundestag.

Behind the Reichstag, the river Spree is a natural dividing line between the two ex-halves of Berlin. On the East bank of the river is an impressive new Parliament Building .

Visible in the image above are six of the seven white crosses on the Western bank of the Spree, put there in 1971 by a group of West Germans in memory of the East Germans who died in their attempt to flee to the West.

Film and TV crews were setting up their equipment as we walked under a flowing net of 100,000 rainbow coloured nylon strips, that moves with the wind in front of Berlin’s iconic Brandenburg Gate. Many of the strips had written messages of love, peace and hope.

A naked protester at the Brandenburg Gate – We had no idea what this guy was ranting on about. Maybe “Meine Bits frieren”?
Alexanderplatz

Arriving up from to subway to a cacophony of noise and finding footage of historic pictures and symbols projected in a multimedia show on the buildings in the Alexanderplatz square, was very powerful and moving.

The Alexanderplatz demonstration (German: Alexanderplatz-Demonstration) was a demonstration for political reforms and against the government of the German Democratic Republic on Alexanderplatz in East Berlin on Saturday 4 November 1989. With between half a million and a million protesters it was one of the largest demonstrations in East German history[A] and a milestone of the peaceful revolution that led to the fall of the Berlin Wall and German reunification.

To some extent the real history of what people lived through remains apparent in buildings of the former East Germany. It feels that bit poorer, a bit more austere. In the centre of Berlin 30 years of investment has definitely blurred the line, but travelling through from West to East the differences are still there to be seen and felt.

And yet, although the West is in general is a bit prettier, more colourful, the West’s buildings are less plain faced, more individual. Unlike the soviet influenced apartment blocks of the east. These differences are the physical scars of the history that created them. However I would argue, that while East’s image is less attractive to glitz and glamour seeking tourist like us, there is still oddly, a beauty in the historical honesty and truth it tells. Let us hope Glasnost (openness) and Perestroika (restructuring) continues….

Brandenburg Gate symbols etched on the underground carriage windows

Getting about Berlin is really very easy. The city’s network of underground trains, trams and buses are all fully integrated, so single day ticket allows you to hop on and off at any point. Well that’s the theory until you get to Hauptbahnhof!

Berlin Hauptbahnhof station is the German capital’s main station, it’s big, if fact it’s huge, it’s also the most confusing place I have ever been trapped in. The multi-level, open plan design with its impressive arc of curved glass roof and supporting steel structures, sets a trap that once inside the network of multiple lifts and elevators, innocent passengers are caught in a high-tech web of assorted main line train and underground platforms heading in every conceivable directions. The ability to read German is of little use, as the limited number, but bewilderingly numbered signs and illogical colour coding are utterly confusing.

After 45 minutes of utter confusion and for the sake of our sanity, we took the only option, take any train, to anywhere but the Berlin Hauptbahnhof.

Please don’t try this at home – Whilst scratching our heads at the top of an UP escalator, a confused man (we weren’t alone) made to go down (the escalator), realising his error he tripped and deposited most of his carton of 12 beer cans on the downward moving flights. Naturally seeing his plight, we immediately ran over to help him to his feet. I then inexplicably headed off down the moving stairs to collect the man’s remaining run-away cans. I managed to gather them all and turned around to attempt the near-death experience of trying to run up a down escalator whilst trying to keep hold of the subsequently ungrateful man’s alcohol….

I really wish I’d seen this YouTube clip before I embarked on such a misadventure… It’s worth watching this to the end

Tood lep IP

Dave & Lesley

It’s Grimm up North

Germany is a country with a long and rich tradition in folklore, with stories many us know and love. It’s also the birthplace of the Brothers Grimm, storytellers who collected fairy tales and folklore from far and wide with characters such as Rapunzel, Little Red Riding Hood and that one with the name that the Queen finds hard to guess.

Can you guess my name?

We’re in the Harz mountain region, travelling from Goslar (v nice) on our way to Wernigerode where we passed alongside and crossed over the Harz steam railway that transports tourists to the nearby Brocken mountain, a popular place steeped in witchery, folklore and myth. We thought about taking a ride on the narrow gauge train that runs to the top but as the Brocken was shrouded in cloud we decided to give it a mis(t)…

Our targeted stellplatz in Wernigerode is near the centre of town but when we arrived it was full, which meant we ended up along with 20+ other motorhomes in the lorry park just outside. We thought it was strange for there to be so many vans here this time of year but we soon discovered why.

Today was the chocolate festival chocolART in Wernigerode.
One of the many temping stall selling far too much chocolate naughtiness
Wernigerode is a really pretty town with a very friendly atmosphere

On the market square in front of the historic town hall and many of the shopping street around there were dozens of chocolatiers from all different countries, selling chocolate presented in a huge number of imaginative variations. Along with the chocs there were lots of accompanying stalls selling tempting alcoholic beverages, Bratwurst sausages (seemed very popular) and all manner of other naughty looking stuff.

Best not choose the spicy Bratwurst next time

Lesley went for the hot sausage (not for the faint hearted). We also tried, in spite of not having a clue what we might be ordering and whether it was sweet or savoury, something called Kürtőskalács (translated as lard cakes) which turned out to be sugar-dusted doughnut pieces in a paper cone.

The tourists who came on this vintage outing had obviously heard of the school bus trip to Lake Bala

After Goslar and Wernirode, Quedlinburg (just outside of the Harz’s foothills) completed our trio of the area’s attractive medieval towns. Once again, we had chosen a parking spot close to the centre but this time there was space for us amongst the other camping cars and tourist buses (new and old).

Arriving late in the afternoon the town had a distinctly autumnal and out of season feeling. Going for a wander we met Norbert Kline (local guide) but we passed up his advances, choosing instead to explore on our own the mystical maze of cobbled medieval streets and to soak up the diversity of the aged architecture.

Quedlingburg Town Hall

Quedlinburg is said to have Germany’s best collection of creaky half-timbered buildings (more than 1,200 – probably the reason for its World Heritage status). But back in the day the poor witches around here had a really hard time, when Quedlinburg burned 133 suspected witches in a single day in 1589.

These fortunate ladies were just hung for a spell on a whirligig outside a shop

Strolling around is a magical experience; one of those places where the whole is greater than the sum of its parts.

Although Quedlinburg has hundreds of pre-16th-century buildings, some are a bit down-at-heel, even after 30 years of reunification investment there’re many who are not yet completely tourist camera ready.

In German folklore, there is a tale of an imp that rattles sticks, makes creepy noises in the dark, and has been compared to a poltergeist.

In the Brothers Grimm tale, a miller tells the King that his daughter can spin straw into gold in order to gain the King’s favour. Of course, the daughter can do no such thing which is when the magical powers of the infamous imp becomes useful to her.

He offers to spin the gold for her in exchange for her firstborn child once she becomes Queen. When he comes to collect his payment, the miller’s daughter, now a Queen, refuses to give up her child. So the devilishly cunning imp only agrees to release her of her debt if she can guess his name. And after three days of guessing, he returns to take the child but the Queen’s messenger has overheard the imp singing his own name so with her third and final guess she reveals his name as Rumpelstilzchen which promptly drives the angry Rumpelstiltskin quite mad.

Toodle Pip

D & L

Liebesbankweg

The German word Liebe translates in English as Love. So, Liebesbankweg = Love Bank Path.

I learnt the word Liebe a while ago whilst I was on one of the first skiing holidays in Zell am Ziller in Austria, I was asked by a very attractive woman if I would like to try some ‘Heiße Liebe’ (Hot Love). Tasting ‘hot love’ on that holiday created a often desired love for vanilla ice-cream covered in delicious warm dark cherries soaked in kirsch mmmmm….

Last night we’ve parked Charlie in a Stellplatz in the town of Hahnenklee specifically to enjoy walking the Liebesbankweg.

Lesley and Charlie II wrapped up warm

The weather had changed during the night and although there was no snow, we woke up to a heavy frost on the ground and at +2 degrees it was bitterly cold. Fortunately there was no wind but the chilly air gave a hint of what this area could be like in winter, when this hill turns into a winter-sports playground with four downhill ski slopes plus a bobsleigh track. In the summer the skiers just change their outfits to tackle the multiple downhill mountain bike tracks.

Route finding was easy and our path soon crossed over the bike trails, on the tracks and emerging at a fair lick we saw at close range the downhill bikers racing down the twisting root exposed course, each one desperately trying to avoid cuddling a tree and us! (note to self – I need to get some of that padded MTB plastic armour).

A couple of competitive bikers had obviously hit this at some speed!

The varied route is popular with ‘lovers’ and lovers of walking of all ages and appeared to have attracted many to come out on this sunny but frosty Harz mountains to enjoy a bracing weekend hike.

Lesley with that Ready Brek glow admiring the many stone stacks.

As we climbed through the forest we passed by large sculptured seats positioned for lovers to sit, reflect and enjoy a views There was also various art works on the route and as we reached the highest point we started to see lots and lots of stone groups or stacks that people had gathered together.

Emerging from the woods the path staarted descending down past the ponds of the UNESCO World Heritage Site “Oberharzer Wasserwirtschaft”.

Much of this system of dams, reservoirs, ditches and other structures were built from the 16th to 19th centuries to divert and store the water that drove the water wheels for the mines in the region.

Dave screwing around with the Archimedes’ pump

Close to the dams there is a brilliant children’s play area where kids of all ages can transfer water from streams to channels via series of specially constructed and imaginatively engineered contraptions.

We both loved this interesting and varied 7k circular walk that led us eventually back to this attractive wooden Stave Church and our starting point at the busy parking lot.

On the subject of love, I came across this….

My One Eyed Love

I've fallen in love- I don't know why
I've fallen in love with a girl with one eye.

I knew from the start. It was plain to see
That this wonderful girl had an eye out for me

She's charming and witty and jolly and jocular
Not what you'd expect from a girl who's monocular.

Of eyes - at the moment - she hasn't full quota
But that doesn't change things for me one iota.

It must be quite difficult if you're bereft.
If your left eye is gone and your right eye is left.

But she's made up her mind. She's made her decision.
She can see it quite clearly in 10/20 vision.

She'll not leave me waiting, not left in the lurch
If she looks slightly sideways she'll see me in church.

I'll marry my true love who's gentle and kind.
And thus prove to everyone that loves not quite blind

Toodle Pip (till next time)

Dave & Lesley